You can find League City’s local history librarian, Caris Brown, tucked away in a back corner of Helen Hall Library. With her warm smile, Brown, who also serves as the City’s archivist, works to preserve and document League City’s history, a passion that began with her own family ties to Texas history.
How did you become an archivist?
I graduated with a history degree from the University of Houston and when I began looking for jobs in which I could use my degree, I discovered that the University of Texas offered a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Sciences with an area of study in archives. I enrolled, and upon graduation, I moved to Washington D.C. and worked as an archivist with History Associates, a company that provides historian and archive services for various clients including museums, congressional offices, and corporations.
How did you end up at the Helen Hall Library?
After I graduated from high school, my family moved to League City and I lived at home with them while attending UH. I spent a lot of time studying at the Helen Hall Library during that time before heading off to Austin for grad school. After working for five years in D.C., I decided it was time to move closer to my family. I moved back to League City without a job, but within a few months, the local history librarian/archivist position became available at the Helen Hall Library and I applied. I feel like it was meant to be. That was 10 years ago.
Where does your love of history come from?
Knowing history, especially Texas history, was a big part of my childhood and growing up. My family can trace its genealogy to Green Dewitt, who helped to found the town of Gonzales, which was the site of the first skirmish of the Texas Revolution during the 1830’s. As a symbol of defiance during the battle, a flag was created containing the phrase "come and take it" along with a black star and an image of a cannon that Texas had received from Mexican officials.
What kind of items are housed in the local history room of the Helen Hall library?
We have everything from school yearbooks and old local newspapers, to hundreds of photos, original documents, and books that outline the history or League City and its founding families.
What is your favorite historical artifact?
We have a huge “bird's-eye view” painting of League City that people love to come and look at. It was painted on linen which makes it quite fragile and precious.
Can members of the public visit the local history room?
Absolutely. In fact, I wish more people would come and explore the documents, books, and photos that are in the room. I can also assist with school or independent research projects and pull documents related to the City and its founding families, local organizations, civic groups, and local neighborhoods and homes. If we don’t have a certain document or information, I can guide you in the right direction. I can even assist with genealogy searches.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I have a passion for helping people. If I can help someone find answers about their ancestors or League City, that’s what truly makes me happy.
What are some of the most requested stories people want to know more about?
People love learning about the dispute over what to name the city. In the late 1890s, residents were divided between the original name of the community, which was Clear Creek, and League City which was the name given by wealthy Galveston businessman J.C. League who owned much of the land that made up the town. Folks were quite passionate about it, placing signs and taking down signs depending on what side of the railroad tracks they lived on. Eventually, League City prevailed, even though J.C. League never actually lived in the city limits. League City’s “last gunfight” is also a popular research topic. Though in reality, it really wasn’t a gunfight. It was more of a cold-blooded murder over a cattle dispute that took place in the 1920’ in front of what is now Butler’s Courtyard.